HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s first bullet prepare glides out of a modern harborfront railway station sure for mainland China on Saturday, launching a brand new period of integration and elevating fears for some for the territory’s cherished freedoms.
FILE PHOTO: A Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Specific Rail prepare stations at a depot in Hong Kong, China August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Not like different cross-border connections, the $11 billion prepare venture has stoked appreciable controversy, with Hong Kong, a former British colony, having needed to concede a part of its jurisdiction to China for the primary time.
Passengers getting into the modernist constructing can have their paperwork stamped by Chinese language immigration officers and shall be topic to Chinese language regulation whereas zipping throughout Hong Kong at 200 kph (120 mph) to the mainland. Hong Kong and Beijing officers have justified the weird association as a one-off, whereas touting its logistical and financial advantages.
However critics say the railway is an emblem of continuous Chinese language assimilation of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese language rule in 1997 with ensures of widespread autonomy and freedoms not loved on the mainland, together with an unbiased authorized system.
“I fear that Hong Kong will not be Hong Kong,” stated Martin Lee, a veteran democrat and barrister who’s preventing to derail the venture within the metropolis’s courts.
He stated Hong Kong risked shedding its attract as a monetary hub underpinned by robust rule of regulation, as Beijing steps up a push to fuse the town into an unlimited hinterland of the Pearl River Delta together with 9 Chinese language cities dubbed the Higher Bay Space.
A number of different infrastructure tasks will open this yr together with a $20 billion sea bridge to Macau and Zhuhai, whereas Beijing is now working with Chinese language tech large Tencent to let individuals change their journey paperwork through the use of a cell phone WeChat app to cross the border in future.
“LITTLE ANT IN A BOX”
“Hong Kong shall be utterly submerged into the Higher Bay, and we don’t know what it’s going to be like,” stated the 80-year-old Lee, who helped discovered the town’s Democratic Get together.
“That’s the worrying factor. Hong Kong goes to be put like a little bit ant right into a field.”
Lately, particularly since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 that ended with no concessions from the federal government, Beijing has struggled to win hearts and minds, particularly amongst these youths who reject any notion of being a part of mainland China and have chafed at perceived meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.
As protesters demanded better freedoms amid some speak of splitting Hong Kong from China, Beijing tightened its grip, jailing some younger protest leaders, forcing others to flee and taking the wind out of the democracy motion’s sails.
Hong Kong officers dismissed issues that Hong Kong’s identification was being swamped.
“In such a carefully knitted hinterland, there may be all the time a want to convey down any type of pointless limitations,” Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Financial Improvement Edward Yau informed Reuters.
“However that’s to not say compromising on one nation, two programs,” Yau added, referring to the components by which Hong Kong returned to Chinese language rule with the promise that its “capitalist system and lifestyle” would stay unchanged till at the very least 2047.
“The underside line will nonetheless be one nation, two programs,” Yau added. “The Fundamental Regulation (Hong Kong’s mini-constitution) doesn’t have an expiry date of 2047.”
Bernard Chan, who runs an insurance coverage enterprise and sits on Hong Kong’s Govt Council which advises the federal government on coverage, stated he believes China desires to make Hong Kong work in its greatest pursuits.
The excessive pace rail and bridge will bolster present infrastructure that already permits greater than 600,00zero individuals to shuttle between the 2 sides each day by street, rail and sea.
Beijing desires the Higher Bay Space, residence to some 68 million individuals with a mixed GDP of $1.5 trillion, roughly that of Australia or South Korea, to mannequin itself on San Francisco Bay and Tokyo Bay, to higher meld individuals, items and sectors together with finance, tourism, logistics, manufacturing and tech.
“The reality of the matter is, after all, we’re integrating quick, economically and socially,” stated Chan. “The one half that isn’t integrating in any respect is politics.”
Extra reporting by Holly Chik; Modifying by Nick Macfie